Investing into a powerful off-road winch will provides you with a lifeline if you or others become stuck. Depending upon your budget, most winches have a pull rating that ranges from 4,000 to 20,000 LB and are suitable for a variety of vehicles. As you can see in the above photo, that’s us getting quite stuck whilst on an off-road trail but the winch allowed us to pull the truck out with ease.
If you require a quick answer, the best winch for the money is the Smittybilt 97495 XRC, which uses a 6.6 HP amphibious motor with pull ratings that range from 9,500 to 17,500 LB. However, if you are a true off-road enthusiast and happy to spend the extra, the WARN 95950 Zeon 12-S is the ultimate off-road winch.
In order to rate the winches within this article, we based our recommendations on our experience and plenty of research. Over the years, we have tried and tested plenty of winches and understand the features and performance that are required. We also based our recommendations upon a number of factors such as their pull ratings, waterproof construction, motor performance, weight, provided cable, additional features and warranty.
Table of Contents
Off Road Winch Comparison
|Winch||Pull Rating (LB)||Waterproof|
|Smittybilt 97495 XRC||9,500 - 17,500||IP67|
|WARN 96820 VR12||12,000||IP67|
|WARN 95950 Zeon 12-S||8,000 - 12,000||IP68|
|Smittybilt (98512) X2O||10,000 - 17,500||IP68|
|Superwinch 1510200||8,500 - 10,000||IP67|
|OFF ROAD BOAR||13,000||IP67|
Investing into a quality winch not only improves your abilities whilst off-roading but it’s also far easier to use. Desirable features that improve the usability of a winch can include free spooling, multiple stage planetary gear trains, remote controls and also a lightweight design. To improve safety, many winches are now also available with a synthetic winch rope. Unlike a steel cable winch, the synthetic alternative doesn’t have stored energy, which means it won’t whip back in the event of the cable breaking.
Below is a list of the best winches that are suitable for trucks, 4×4 and other off-road vehicles with a range of pull ratings to suit all requirements.
The Best Winch
1. Smittybilt 97495 XRC 4×4 Winch
Smittybilt is by far the most popular winch brand with a variety of different models available. Their 97495 XRC is one of their most rated winches with weight capacity options that range from 9,500 to an impressive 17,500 LB.
Included with this winch is a remote control switch, which is connected to a 12 foot cable and it allows you to control the operation of the winch from a distance.
Other features of the Smittybilt 97495 XRC include:
- Load capacities ranging from 9,500 to 17,5000 LB
- Includes a remote control with 12 foot lead
- Choice of a steel cable (93 foot long) or synthetic rope
- 6.6 HP electric motor with sliding ring gear
- 3 stage planetary gear train with a 161.28:1 ratio
- IP67 waterproof rating
- Weighs 78 LBS
- Made in the USA
Considering that the 97495 XRC requires a sizable investment, the brand offer two separate warranties. The first is a 3 year warranty against any electrical defects and the other is a lifetime mechanical warranty. Compared to similar priced winches, these warranties are far longer and provide complete peace of mind.
Overall, the Smittybilt 97495 XRC is the best winch for the money that can be easily installed to trucks or other 4×4 vehicles. There is also a wide range of configurations to choose from that allow you to choose a winch that best suits your requirements.Check it Out
2. Warn 96820 XRC 12000 LB Winch
Warn are a highly reputable brand that produce a wide range of winches. Their 96820 VR12000 model is a highly rated winch that’s available as a steel or synthetic rope setup. As with any Warn winch, it does come with a premium price tag but this is one of their more affordable models that ticks all the boxes.
In terms of the performance, the 96820 VR model is capable of pulling up to 12,000 LB loads using the powerful 12V DC electric motor.
Other features of the Warn 96820 XRC 12000 LB winch include:
- Three stage planetary gear train for smooth pulling
- Waterproof albright contractor control
- Low profile design for easy fitting
- Weighs 82.3 LBS
- 12 feet wired cord
- 94 feet steel cable inside the drum
- Lifetime limited warranty
- Exclusive braking system
The control pack can be removed and mounted in a location of your choice so that you can operate the winch from wherever you want. The wired cord that comes with this winch is 12 foot long and can also be modified to run with a wireless adapter.
To conclude, the Warn 96820 VR12000 is an excellent affordable option by the Warn brand but if you are on the budget, the Smittybilt 97495 XRC would be the best alternative.Check it Out
3. Warn 95950 Zeon 12-S Electric Winch
Another popular option by the Warn brand is the 95950 Zeon 12-S winch, which the brand claim is the “strongest-in-class”. It also has extreme waterproofing and sealing, which meets IP68 standards, which is the highest rated out of all the warn winches. To further maximize the superior quality of this winch, it uses a spydura pro synthetic rope, which is urethane-coated and heat-treated.
Other features of the Warn 95950 Zeon 12-S include:
- 12,000 LB rated line pull
- Remote switch with 12 foot lead
- Synthetic rope
- Aluminum hawse roller fairlead
- Matte black powder coated finish
- Stainless steel fasteners
- Automatic mechanical cone brake
- 162:1 gear ratio
The Warn 95950 Zeon 12-S is built to the highest of standards and comes with the brand’s patented relocation kit. This means you are able to easily mount or remote mount the winch to suit your requirements.
Although it’s the best Warn winch the brand offers, the premium price puts it out of reach for many people. However, if you can afford the 95950 Zeon 12-S, it will certainly not disappoint.Check it Out
4. Smittybilt (98512) X2O 4×4 Winch
The Smittybilt X20 is another highly rated and popular winch that’s completely waterproof. It’s available in a number of configurations that includes weight capacities ranging from 10,000 LB to 17,500 LB. Compared to the XRC model, the X20 has an IP68 rating, which makes it more suitable for damp or water based off road usage.
Other features of the Smittybilt X20 include:
- Optional snatch block and shackle
- 3 stage planetary gear system (265:1 gear ratio)
- Durable textured black finish
- 6.6 HP electric motor
- Choice of steel or synthetic rope
- Wireless remote control
- IP68 waterproof rating
- Lifetime mechanical warranty
- 5 year electrical warranty
The Smittybilt X20 is a high performing off road winch that provides similar performance to the premium Warn model but without the price tag. For complete peace of mind, the brand provides a lifetime mechanical warranty and 5 year electrical warranty with this particular model.Check it Out
5. Warn 38631 M8274-50 Compact Winch
Another premium winch by the Warn brand is the 38631 model, which has a unique design that’s compact with a separate control pack. This allows for versatile mounting upon trucks or 4×4 vehicles with limited space.
According to the brand, this winch has been tested and proven for real world conditions and they back it up with a lifetime warranty.
Other features of the Warn 38631 M8274-50 include:
- 8,000 LB pulling capacity
- Gear reduction ratio of 134:1
- 12V 4.6 HP electric motor
- Remote control with a 12 foot lead
- Separate control pack
- 3-stage planetary gear train
- Limited lifetime warranty
Depending upon the mounting area, you may require a smaller winch and this is where the Warn 38631 becomes very desirable. Unlike other small winches that lack power, this doesn’t with a pull capacity of 8,000 LB.Check it Out
6. Superwinch 1510200 LP10000 Off Road Winch
As you can tell from the brand name, Superwinch specialize in winches and produce a range of models. The 1510200 LP10000 is their flagship model that’s designed for enthusiasts requiring maximum performance.
The brand state that you can install the LP10000 to most 4×4 vehicles as well as trailers and RV’s. It’s a versatile winch that’s available as a 10,000 or 7,500 LB pull rating.
Other features of the Superwinch 1510200 LP10000 include:
- 10,000 LB pull rating
- Planetary gear train (235:1)
- 85 feet long steel wire rope
- 5.1 HP weather resistant wound motor
- Weather-sealed solenoid and circuit breaker
- Automatic load holding and mechanical braking
- Remote switch with 12 foot cable
- 2 year limited warranty
- Weighs 90 LBS
The Superwinch 1510200 LP10000 is one of the most top rated winches on the market. The brand itself specializes in winches and produce a variety of different pull ratings. The 1510200 LP10000 is the more expensive but provides far superior performance, which makes it a worthwhile investment that you won’t regret.Check it Out
7. Champion Power Equipment Lightweight Winch
The Champion Power Equipment 145600 is an affordable option that’s capable of pulling 4,500 LB from a 1.6 HP permanent magnet motor. It’s an ideal winch for small to medium sized off road trucks or SUV’s and it comes as a complete kit. A unique feature of the 145600 model is that it comes with a wireless remote control and antenna. This allows you to control the operation of the winch from a 50 foot radius.
Other features of the Champion Power Equipment 145600 include:
- Wireless remote control
- 38 feet long galvanized steel cable
- 4.6 feet per minute with a full load
- Three stage planetary gear system
- Free spooling clutch system
- 2 year limited warranty and lifetime technical support
The 145600 model by Champion Power Equipment is a lightweight winch that packs a plenty of power for a compact design. The wireless remote along with other features make it ideal for a variety of applications.Check it Out
8. X-BULL Waterproof 12V Electric Winch
The X-BULL is another IP67 rated waterproof winch that’s available with a black or orange finish. It’s the brands new and improved model that includes the latest generation wireless remote control for operating the unit from a distance.
The brand offer this winch with the option of a steel or the more desirable Dyneema synthetic rope, which is a 1/10 of the weight and more safer to use.
Other features of the X-BULL 12V include:
- 13,000 LB load capacity
- IP67 waterproof rated
- 500AMP solenoid
- Free spooling clutch
- Hand remote controller
- Heavy duty sealed contractor
- 85 foot synthetic cable
- Includes a one year warranty
Although it doesn’t come with the backing of a large off road brand, this winch certainly performs to a similar standard. It provides great bang for your buck and is available in either black or orange to best suit your requirements.Check it Out
9. ORCISH IP67 Waterproof Jeep Winch
Another winch that’s able to be used in under 1 meter of water is by the ORCISH brand. It’s a powerful and durable option that has an IP rating of 67, which makes it completely dustproof and waterproof. In terms of the pulling performance, it’s rated at 13,000 LB but the brand also provide a range of other models.
Other features of the ORCISH Unit include:
- Automatic load holding
- Heavy duty sealed contractor
- Three stage planetary gear system
- Wireless remote control
- IP 67 rated
- CE approved
When compared to other winches that offer 13,000 LB pulling power, this ORCISH unit offers excellent value for the money. As it has an IP67 waterproof rating, it’s also the perfect choice for those that find themselves frequently driving through water.Check it Out
10. OFFROAD BOAR Synthetic Rope Winch
Many off-road enthusiasts and brands such as OFFROAD BOAR are moving towards synthetic rope winches in an effort to improve safety. Their new and improved winch that uses a synthetic rope has a waterproof rating of IP67 and is capable of pulling up to 13,000 LB.
For maximum durability in water based conditions, the motor is completely sealed and moisture proof. The brand even state that it can be used in 1 meter deep water.
Other features of the OFFROAD BOAR include:
- 13,000 LB pull rating
- 85 foot long synthetic rope included
- Free spooling clutch
- IP67 waterproof grade
- Handheld and wireless remote control
- 4 way roller fairlead
- 3 stage planetary gear system
- Wireless remote controller and hand controller
Considering that most synthetic ropes cost the total price of this winch, the OFFROAD BOAR is an excellent option. It’s an off road winch that can be used in heavy duty conditions and water as deep as 1 meter, which is highly impressive. When compared against other leading brands such as Smittybilt or Warn, the OFFROAD BOAR synthetic rope winch offers far better value for the money.Check it Out
How We Rated The Winches
As shown in the first image in this article, we are keen off-road enthusiasts and often take part in challenges and off-road trails. This means we are in a great position to offer a number of winch recommendations based upon our own experience. However, we also rated the winches above on a number of factors. These included their pull ratings, waterproof construction, motor performance, weight, provided cable, additional features and warranty.
4×4 Winch Buying Guide
When it comes to proper off-roading in the mud or even rock crawling in your truck, you will more than likely require a winch. Getting stuck in the mud is fairly common and no matter how good your all terrain tires are, they can always become stuck.
Smittybilt, Warn and SuperWinch dominate the market with various winches available. There are some that are lightweight with adequate pulling power for most applications but there are much larger winches that offer 20,000 LB pull ratings and higher.
To help you make an informed buying decision, we have produced the below guide regarding truck and 4×4 winches.
The required pulling power of the winch will be dependent upon the type of application that it will be used for. The most popular pull rating is usually the 12000 LB winch, which is able to pull trucks and large SUV’s out of any tricky situations with ease.
Choosing a low pulling capacity winch that’s used for pulling weights much larger than the capacity can be problematic. Not only could the cable snap but the stress on the internal components of the winch can break, which will be an expensive fix or may even break it completely.
Weight of the Winch
In order to achieve high pull ratings, you will need a larger motor, which will result in a heavier winch. This can cause handling issues with the extra weight at the front of the vehicle but most large trucks or SUV’s won’t suffer from handling issues.
Investing into a lightweight winch that packs a lot of power will certainly cost more. However, if it doesn’t effect handling of the vehicle, it’s a worthwhile investment.
Front Mounted Winch on Bumper
A very important factor to consider before buying a powerful electric winch is whether or your not your front bumper is prepared for the weight. An electric winch can be fairly heavy and cause stress on the front bumper, which may cause issues if it’s not rigid enough.
The best front bumpers for winches are usually reinforced and have dedicated locations for the winch to be mounted. There are a range of custom bumpers available to mount your winch onto and it’s important that you find one that holds the weight of the winch. Most winches weigh anywhere from 70 LBS to 200 LBS.
Below is our 4×4 winch that’s mounted onto a reinforced bumper that was custom made.
Hydraulic vs Electric Winch
The two main types of winches are a hydraulic operated and electric winch. As you will see within all of our recommended winches, they are all electrically operated and for good reason. They are not only cheaper than the hydraulic alternative but they are also far easier to use and install.
Hydraulic operated winches do have their benefits as they can be used for much larger weight capacities. They will also not overheat as there is no electrical current within the motor, which under heavy usage can heat up.
How To Install An Off Road Winch
After choosing your winch, you will want to know how to install it. It’s critical that you install it correctly otherwise your winch won’t work correctly and you could potentially damage your vehicle.
In order to fit an electric winch to your bumper, follow the below steps:
- Locate the hitch on the front bumper for your winch
- Mount the winch onto the hitch securely
- Connect a wire to the power source (i.e. battery)
- Install a power switch
- Pretension the wire inside the winch
The last step is often left out but its essential to ensure it’s tightly spooled onto the winch drum. Some manufacturers will supply the winch with the cable correctly spooled already but some don’t.
If your bumper doesn’t have a mounting spot available, you will need to buy a “winch bumper”. It’s also worth mentioning that a winch uses a lot of power and therefore you will require a high powered battery if you haven’t got one already.
Some people also like converting their off road winch to a wireless controlled setup with a slight modification. One verified method of doing this is by using the Mile Maker 7076 and following the instructions but it’s usually a plug in and play device.
Steel Cables vs Synthetic Rope Winches
Thanks to the advancements in synthetic technology, many off road users are choosing a synthetic winch rope instead of a steel cable. The safety benefits should be enough to make you consider changing but there are many more benefits too.
The main issue with steel cables is the fact that there is store energy. This means that in the unfortunate event of the cable snapping, it could whip back uncontrollably and cause serious damage. The synthetic alternative doesn’t store energy and harmlessly falls to the ground.
Synthetic materials have been used within some of the best tow straps for many years now and winches are now available with this option too.
Safety Tips Whilst Using Winches
When under full load, winches can be very dangerous and many people have suffered serious injuries due to the cable snapping. Therefore, when using a winch, it’s crucial that you take several precautions to ensure everyone involved is safe. Some common safety tips that you should always abide to when using an off road winch include:
- Never climb or step over a cable under tension
- Always inspect the winch, cable and clamps before use
- Have someone as a winch operator and someone else watching
- Ensure the winch remote is not near the drum of the winch
- Ensure no one is standing near the towed object in case of sudden movements
Compared with many of the older winches from around 10 years ago, the latest include several safety features to prevent injury.
Investing into a top rated winch for your truck, SUV or 4×4 vehicle is an essential component for most off road enthusiasts. There is a wide variety of winches available but we highly recommend choosing one from either Smittybilt, Warn of SuperWinch. These are trusted brands within the off road community and they produce a variety of winches that provide different performance in terms of pulling power or lightweight designs.